Not many places in the Philippines have captured the hearts and minds of travelers quite like Siargao has. It’s an Island paradise—the mere mention of its name instantly brings up thoughts of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, coconuts trees and perfect waves.
The island attracts people from all over the world from all walks of life. This is due in part to the world-class surf and the rich biodiversity of the surrounding waters which have drawn in surfers and sports fishers alike.
There is so much to do and see here despite its being a small island in the Pacific, and we suggest putting Siargao in your bucket list and knocking it off as soon as possible.
Surigao del Norte,
Siargao is divided into 10 municipalities: Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, Pilar, San Benito, San Isidro, Santa Monica and Socorro. Each municipality has its own unique geological features and natural attractions.
(Siargao can be reached from Manila, Cebu and Davao, with flights reaching the island daily.)
With a land area of about 437 square kilometers, the island has a coastline that’s home to beautiful reef systems, white sandy beaches, mangrove forests, thick jungles and a wide array of unique wildlife, some endemic to the island.
Siargao’s climate is mostly ‘wet’ as there is technically no dry season on the island. However, maximum rainfall is from November – January.
Life on the island is pretty laid-back despite its economy becoming very dependent on tourism. Great care is being taken by the local government and authorities to ensure that tourists have the lowest possible impact on the island’s fragile ecosystem.
However, the strains of tourism have begun to take their toll as some parts of the island seem to be playing a little bit of catch up. The influx of tourists has been steadily increasing over the years, at a rate faster than local government response.
This has led to overcrowding in some tourist areas which has forced local authorities to implement measures to cope with the situation.
Island hopping is a must if you really want to experience what Siargao and the neighboring islands have to offer.
There are a couple of bike rental shops on Tourism Road. (Some hotels and inns have free bikes available for check-in guests as well.)
Things To Do And See
Siargao has plenty of tourist attractions for you to visit. But to get the full experience, there are also some ‘worth-it’ destinations that can be found in Siargao or the neighboring islands.
Del Carmen Mangrove Reserve – Del Carmen, Siargao Island
The largest mangrove forest in the Philippines which spans a massive 8,620 hectares (21,300 acres) is home to 27 of the 70 known species of mangrove in the entire world. There is a number of rare and endangered species of plants and animals that can only be found here. The forests are also home to the freshwater Philippine Crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) and its much larger cousin, the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the largest reptile in the world.
The mangrove forest is only accessible by boat/bangka, and you have to visit the Del Carmen tourism office to secure passage. The tour takes you through the scenic, winding waterways of the mangrove forests and ends at Sugba Lagoon before returning you back to Del Carmen.
You’ll come to a two-story wooden building where you can rent kayaks or paddleboards to take around the lagoon. You can also dive from a ‘more sturdy than it looks’ diving platform.
Magpupungko Beach – Pilar, Siargao Island
Magpupungko means ‘to put on top’ or ‘put atop’ in Visayan. The place gets its name from the giant rock formation that sits in the middle of a series of spectacular tide pools that have been carved into the rocky shoreline millions of years ago.
Visitors can enjoy the beach and tide pools for a small environmental fee of ₱50. However, time in the tide pool area is limited because of the tidal cycle, and visitors are not permitted in the pools during high tide.
Perfect for picture taking, swimming and family outings, it can get very busy (especially during holidays or weekends) so try to go as early as possible to beat the crowds.
There are also a number of picnic areas and small vendors at Magpupungko Beach. Try the Salvaros—a type of cracker made from ground cassava that is fried and then topped with caramelized coconut cream.
Sohoton Cove National Park – Bucas Grande Island, Socorro
The park is a patchwork of coves and lagoons with caves that make up one of the most eye-catching places we’ve been to in the Philippines. You’ll have to register for a tour and pay the entrance/environmental fees to actually traverse the park which can only be done by boat.
Sports Fishing has been popular on the island for a while now, and every year it hosts an annual Sports Fishing Competition in the Municipality of Pilar.
Shred Some WavesThe surfing community in Siargao is pretty large and made up of surfers from far and wide, earning the island the title of Philippines’ Surfing Capital. Locals, together with foreigners, are developing a unique surfing culture that is actually shaping the development of Siargao itself.
While Cloud 9 is a great spot for surfing (especially for noobs and intermediates), the pros would tackle some of the more challenging waves that can be found in the surrounding waters.
If you’re a pro or confident surfer, try to catch a boat ride to one of the better surfing spots and shred with some of the best on the island.
Cloud 9 – Tourism Rd, General Luna Siargao
Siargao is mostly known for its exceptional surfing areas surrounding the island. Most famous and most surfed is the world renowned ‘Cloud 9’, famed for its hollow tubed waves.
Cloud 9 hosts the annual Siargao Cup Surfing Competition which draws in hundreds if not thousands of surfers from around the globe. A popular tourist hub, the beach has a number of restaurants, eating establishments and small cafes.
During peak (surf) seasons, Cloud 9 is notoriously crowded so make sure you plan your visit accordingly.
Stimpy’s – Tourism Rd, General Luna Siargao
This surfing spot is known for its near perfect barrels during low tide and its magnificent swells during high tide. Stimpy’s is where the moderate and pros go for great surfing.
The spot is only accessible via boat so its best to speak to a local or inquire at your hotel to arrange passage there.
Pacifico – Circumferential Rd, San Isidro Siargao
Less crowded but with great waves, Pacifico is perfect for surfers or beachgoers who want to avoid large crowds and large flocks of tourists. The surfing is great here but not for beginners due to strong currents.
Siargao has a surprisingly large number of great restaurants, cafes and bars. We only tried a few, but according to our local friends, these are some of the best, and we totally agree!
Their Peri-Peri Chicken Thighs and Kofta Kebab Rolls are superb! Definitely musts!
The secret—shaved watermelon ice topped with fresh seasonal fruits and ube ice cream, all served in a young coconut.
It might not be the traditional halo-halo, but it sure is healthier. Plus, it really captures the healthy tropical, holistic hippy, traveling surfer vibe of the island.
Karagatan, Siargao Bleu – Tourism Rd, General Luna, Siargao
With an impressive menu and great quality meals, there is a lot to like at Karagatan. Where they really shine though is their seafood dishes.
Order the giant mud crab with house-made black pepper sauce.
They also make the best boodle fight any of us had. Just be sure to order in advance.
Mama’s opens around 5pm every day so we recommend getting there early as the place is small and constantly crowded.
Where To Crash
There are a number of places to stay on the island, from high-end to budget, all catering to the beachgoer with a heavy emphasis on surfing. It’s best to shop around online to find which place suits you. Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa – Tourism Rd, General Luna
We were fortunate to get a room here at Bleu which is, by far, one of the better resorts we had the pleasure of staying in on the island. The unique design and architecture perfectly encapsulate the laid-back provincial feel of the entire island. And while it’s the only Triple-A resort in Siargao, the establishment doesn’t come off as too bourgeois or high-class.
For more about our awesome stay at Siargao Bleu click here —> Siargao Bleu
Siargao is definitely one of the most beautiful destinations we’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The beauty of the island is only eclipsed by the warmth and welcoming attitude of the locals. Not to mention the fact that everyone seemed to get along well with everybody here, including the tourists who would be quick to tell you how much they love the island.
Siargao itself is seeing major changes. With urban development projects underway and talks of an international airport, Siargao could very soon be a totally different place.
The local government has done a great job so far as to protect the island’s natural attractions and their conservation programs are well established. We hope that as Siargao gears up to meet the demands of an ever-growing tourism industry, they will be able to preserve the island and all it has to offer.
Surigao del Norte, Philippines
Dedicated to Chen Matugas.
Special Thanks and shout out to our Travel Partners:
Siargao Bleu – Click the link for more about this amazing resort and our awesome stay here —> Siargao Bleu
Siargao Boat Rentals – Ask for Mike, the best Skipper on the island. Just click here —> Siargao Boat Rentals
Vesxel – It’s always important to stay hydrated, so why not wet your whistle with these sleek insulated beverage containers. They have a website here —> Vesxel.com
Super thanks to Ning Matugas and Lani Matugas for inviting us to their beautiful island paradise.
Live An Awesome Life!
SEAN Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: I wrote this article with my own biases, opinions and insights.
P.S. For the perfect snack, grab some Pan de Coco. These delicious morsels can be found being sold along the road stalls on Tourism Road. The buns are cooked on an open flame fueled by coconut husks which gives the bread a smoky flavor that blends perfectly with the sweet rich coconut filling.